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The 14 Hockey Player Archetypes (Forwards & Defense) *UPDATED*



Look I know you have heard this before: “Just do your job and play your role, and work hard.”


I talked about this in several other Identity Letters.


Though you have heard these statements said before, I STILL bet you have not stepped back and fully considered how important this can be in your career.


Now, before you write that statement off, let me explain a little bit.


First off, on every hockey team, there is a coach trying to figure out how to win games.

That coach relies on his players to help him do this.


He needs everyone who he puts on the ice to contribute in some way to the team winning.


Otherwise, he is not going to play them (of course politics and player development can impact this, but let’s ignore that for today's conversation).


So the player's job is to help the team win. That is their TEAM VALUE.


If a player doesn’t help their team win, then they are not valuable.


Now every player is unique.


So each player will contribute uniquely to helping the team win (providing value)


You can’t have a team of all players who play EXACTLY the same way (like a whole team of shooters, or a whole team of just defensive players).


You do see this happen somewhat in all-star games where the teams are made up of the best players from all teams.


In these games, you clearly see the lack of balance where most players have a strong preference for offense and defense get’s left by the wayside.


If you build a hockey team like you built an all-star team, it just would not work.


At times the Toronto Maple Leafs have looked like this.


They have had great skill but lacked the completeness of a lineup to compete in the playoffs.


Not everyone can be expected to score goals, or control the puck low, or shut down the other team's top guys, or play simple defense.


But all of these are typically required to win games throughout a season.


This is why teams have ROLES.


(Now I will give a brief overview of some terms, feel free to skip if you would like and go straight to the archetypes explanation)


Roles: These are the core responsibilities/actions your coach and teammates expect of you in games.



Roles typically become more important in lhe later years of minor hockey and junior hockey.


Roles exist so that each player is not in a free-for-all trying to do everything all the time.


You can’t be both high-risk and low-risk at the same time.


Just as you can’t be both a shoot-first and a pass-first player.


Roles exist to help us make more effective decisions on the ice.


Now not all teams have the same exact role requirements because every team has:

  1. Different players

  2. Different coaches

  3. Different strategies (created by coaches)


Brief Overview of the Three Components Of Role

We believe there are three core components of role (in the Hybrid Development System):

  1. Position

  2. Line

  3. Archetype


Position



Everyone knows the position, so it’s not important for today's discussion.


But it does play a major role in shaping the way a player plays in most team systems.


For example, a forward’s job in the defensive zone is usually much different than a defenseman.


Same thing with a center versus a winger in the d-zone, or neutral zone.


The position dictates a fair amount of the decisions we make instinctually on the ice.


I find this quite interesting when we think of this from a neurological perspective.


The position we are given forces us to change the software in our brains to see the game differently.


Line

The second component of your Team Role is the LINE you play on.



You can think of your line as an extension of the ROLE you on the ice.


Just as YOU have a role, your LINE also has a role.


Typically the line roles break down like this:



A good junior coach will make these roles clear so that each line knows their job each game.


If your coach has not made it clear, it is your job to pry it out of him.


You will need to ask him questions to understand what is EXPECTED of your line.


Once you know your line's job, then we can dig deeper into our role within the line/team.


Archetype

Now the third component of your team role is something we call the Hockey ARCHETYPE.



Think of your Hockey Archetype like the archetypes in the NHL video game.

Two Way Forward


Power Forward


Offensive Defenseman


Each Hockey Archetype has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.


Every player will find that their playing style relates to attributes of more than one Archetype.


No one is ever boxed into a specific Archetype.


But when people begin to LABEL you a certain way, it can stick for a long time.


In the Hybrid Development System, we consider the Hockey Label to be:



These labels really do stick with players.


For example, if a player is labelled a power forward, it often sticks until something in your game (mind, body, skills) changes dramatically like mastering their shooting (Shooter/Sniper Forward), or making amazing passes (Playmaker Forward).


This is how your hockey label is formed:


(Position) + (Line) + (Archetype) + (Identity Attributes) + (Offensive/Defensive Preferences)





For example, here’s how I would describe Nikita Kucherov’s Hockey Label:


(Top line Offensive + Winger) + (Sniper/Playmaker) + (elite shot release and passing ability) + (Pass first preference + passive defensive preference + Stick check first preference)


Labels Don't Care About Feelings

Whether we like it or not, scouts and coaches are giving us a label.


Knowing that we must look at ourselves as a player and determine what we want our LABEL to be.


Then we must design our mental, physical, and skills training system to align with this.


When it comes to understanding our LABEL, the ARCHETYPE is really where things get interesting!


The 14 Hockey Archetypes

We have created an updated list of the 14 major Archetypes.


This was upgraded from the 10 we had in our previous article.


Most players are a hybrid (a combination of more than one).


There are 7 for forwards, 7 for defensemen.




The colours reflect the rarity of finding these players at the highest levels.


Keeping in mind that a 4th line NHLer might go to the AHL, or ECHL and go from being a simple/reliable/checker, to a more rare player like a power forward, or a shooter/sniper.


So the rarity is relative to each level.


The Value In Knowing Your Archetype

It is valuable to know your Archetype because many players have the tools (Skills & Abilities) to master a certain archetype, but don't even know it.


The problem is that they don’t know how to assemble these TOOLS (Skills & Abilities) into a TOOLBOX (Archetype).


This is something I do with the clients I work with.


For example:

  1. A forward with size and great hands (Power Forward TOOLS) who can’t figure out how to be a great power forward because he:

    1. Lacks the ability to protect the puck

    2. Struggles with driving the net

    3. Weak at taking hits

  2. Or a Defensman who has great vision, skating, and passing to be a great All Around Defensman but:

    1. He plays too defensive

    2. He is scared to jump in the rush

    3. He sucks at shooting from the point


These players are:


“All tools, but no toolboxes.”

This means they have the tools, but don’t know how to really put them into a clear valuable Archetype (Toolbox).


Or they are missing a few key skills that would allow them to master an Archetype.


As these players get older they often don’t get the ice time they deserve and they often cannot figure out why.


When you are young (5-15) you might be able to get away with just having a few good tools (skills & Abilities).


But as you move into junior at 16-20, more and more players have the tools.


It comes down to how you assemble those tools into a unique toolbox.


They don’t understand that it’s their inability to put their tools together that is holding them back.


So let’s break down how to pick your Archetype and then how to use this new info to transform your training!


Picking Your Hockey Archetype

This can be any of these 14 to start.





You want it to be something you align with.


The best way to determine which one your are suited for is to watch back your last 5-10 games and really see which of these 14 archetypes you most align with based on the descriptions.


We will break down the details of each Archetype below.


Remember these are our own interpretations used to help communicate how to develop ourselves as players. In reality, every player is unique and is not confined to any box they are put in. Creating categories simply helps us guide our development more effectively.


Forwards


1) Simple / Reliable / Checker Forward

Matt Martin


This is what we usually call a ROLE PLAYER.


They don't fit the archetype of a Two Way, Playmaker, Power, or Shooter/sniper.


Usually, these are the bottom 6 players on a team but can slide up the lineup.


As a role player, your main focus is usually PHYSICALITY and not getting scored on.


On offence, usually, your job is to make life miserable for the defenseman down low.


You want to gain an advantage on the shift (ex. getting an offensive faceoff, making big hits, or pinning the other team in their D-zone).


The key is to make more simple plays with a HIGH SUCCESS RATE so that your coach TRUSTS you when he puts you on.


To move up the lineup, these players typically must learn to become a more rare Archetype.


2) Defensive/Shut-Down Forward

Phillip Denault


Defensive play is the name of the game for you.


This is also what we usually call a role-player as well, but you tend to be very defensive and often play against the other team's top lines.


You don't fully fit the role of a Two Way, Playmaker, Power, or Shooter.


Usually, these are the bottom 6 players on a team.


As a Defensive or shut-down forward, your main focus is not getting scored on.


On offence, usually, your job is to make safe, more puck-control-oriented plays.


You want to ideally keep the puck off of the best player's stick.


You want to come out at least neutral each shift (you don’t have to advance the play towards offence as much by taking risks, but this can be a great bonus in this role/archetype if offence is produced).


3) Special Teams Specialist Forward


James van Riemsdyk (Powerplay Net Front Specialist)


Similar to a role player, we have specialists.


They often are a hybrid with another forward Archetype.


These players can exist anywhere in the lineup but are usually top 6.


As a specialist, your main focus is to:

  • Produce on PP

  • Shut down on the PK

  • Win big faceoffs



One might consider a shutdown player a specialist as well, but we chose to separate it because it encompasses more of an entire playing style.


You must be reliable enough to still get even-strength ice time as a specialist, but your job is to step up when the special teams step on, or a big big faceoff needs to be won.


Comment below if you think there are any other specialists we are missing.


4) Two-Way Forward

Patrice Bergeron


You are the responsible forward.


You understand how to play a lower-risk game but still produce offence.


What separates you from a defensive / shutdown forward is your ability to still produce offense from playing good defense.


Usually, these players are low on the risk preference spectrum.


A good Two-Way Forward uses the poke check and stick lift often.


Your primary responsibility is to ensure that your team regains possession when it is lost and then keeps it once it is gained.


These players fit well with a playmaker and a shooter (think Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak).


These players provide stability and always have a great plus-minus (or they are not a plus player, then they are either not a two-way forward or are not playing their role very well).



5) Playmaker Forward

Nikita Kucherov


The name of the game is passing and creativity.


You are a master at possessing the puck and finding open players.


Usually, playmakers also have a solid shot which is what opens up passing opportunities (think Kucherov).


Use passing and deking to open up chances, those are your strengths.


You must be able to dance around the defence until a lane opens up and then pass.


These players must be masters at seeing the ice and guessing where the puck and players will be next.


Playmakers are playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.


These players do best with a shooter they can set up and a power forward OR a two-way forward.


6) Power Forward


Matthew Tkachuk


As a Power Forward, you are above average across the board offensively.


Able to shoot, pass, and deke effectively.


You don’t fit into any one category.


You have enough of all of the stats to make your presence felt in whatever way the present situation calls for.


Power Forwards are for the player who couldn’t care less about conforming to a specific Player Type.


Power forwards also often need to be above average size wise to:

  • Create net drives

  • Make moves with speed

  • Possess puck down low

  • Take and make big hits


Power forwards typically are more offensive-minded, which is what separates them from two-way forwards, but it doesn't mean they are extremely risky.


Power forwards fit well on any line but do best in the top 6 where they are allowed to play with more offense in mind.



7) Shooter/Sniper Forward


David Pasternak


The sniper’s role is to shoot and score.


They are the most rare forward Archetype and are treated as such.


As the most accurate shooter in the game, your job is to get open and shoot first whenever possible.


Your ability to find openings and release from anywhere must be your strong suit.


Usually, these players have one signature shot that has a very high success rate like Ovechkin/Stamkos one-timer, or Matthews' Signature Release.



Defensemen


1) Simple / Reliable / Checker Defenseman

Marc-Edouard Vlasic


This archetype makes up a majority of the defenders in any dataset.


These players don’t excel in any of the offensive metrics.


Takeaways, hits, and puck recoveries are your most common stats and strong suit.


Players in this archetype tend to play deeper in their own zone and don’t tend to be active on the rush.


They prefer to support breakouts and hang back.


2) Defensive / Shut-Down Defenseman


Adam Larsson


This archetype makes up a majority of the defenders in any dataset like the Simple/Reliable/Checker style defensemen.


But the key difference is you excel at shutting great players down.


You may not have any big offensive numbers, but you provide value through preventing the other team from getting big numbers.


Takeaways, hits, and puck recoveries are your most common stats and strong suit.


Players in this archetype tend to gap up tighter to the best opposition which makes it harder for them to make plays.


You don't tend to be active in the rush you prefer to support breakouts and hang back


3) Disruptor Defenseman

Jaccob Slavin


You are similar to defensive defenders, except for having much higher stick checks takeaways entry denials puck battle wins passes blocked.


You take more risks to create turnovers.


You do a great job of clogging up passing lanes and pressuring the puck.


This leads to higher puck recovery and takeaway numbers.


But does not increase your offensive metrics because they still play a more defensive role on the breakout and in the offensive zone.


This was a great breakdown of this Archetype: https://x.com/MikeKellyNHL/status/1579874226244587521?s=20


4) Puck Moving Defenseman

John Klingberg


You are a pass-first D-man.


You move the puck very well.


You create offence through passing as opposed to being the shooter.


You like to make the first breakout pass.


These players are usually a hybrid combined with either a defence-oriented or disruptor defenseman.


You tend to rack up a ton of assists and contribute to the offense through great IQ.


Think of these players as the playmakers but on defense.


5) Offensive / Shooter Defenseman

Brent Burns


You rank shooting as the main pillar in your game and create a high volume of shots, like a shooter forward.


You love to jump into the rush whenever possible, sometimes to your own detriment.


You tend to think of yourself as a 4th forward in many situations.


If there is a pass or a shot opportunity you elect to shoot a majority of the time.


These players also tend to jump in the rush and take more risks defensively to create offence.


You typically cannot have 2 defenseman who plays this way paired up, or you will get a lot of odd-man rushes against you.


6) All-Around Defenseman

Victor Hedman


You are the typical elite defensemen of the league.


The player who wins the league's best D-man will be an All-Round.


You can do all 4 of the other traits well (have high success rates in each).


You will like to get in the rush while also understanding defensive responsibility.


You are a Complete Two-Way Defenseman.


Teams are always looking around to build a team around these players.


Typically these players need to be reasonably large in size to play big minutes, take and give big hits, and really control the game.



7) Special Teams Specialist Defenseman


Tyson Barrie


Similar to a role player, we have specialists.


They often are a hybrid with another Defenseman Archetype.


These players can exist anywhere in the lineup, but are usually top 4 because of their great offensive OR defensive abilities.


As a specialist, your main focus is to:

  • Produce on PP

  • Shut down on the PK


You must be reliable enough to still get even-strength ice time as a specialist, but your job is to step up when the special teams step on.


Understanding Archetypes

Now that we reviewed all of the Archetypes, let's dig deeper into what separates them.


The key to understanding archetypes really comes down to understanding what are the common DECISIONS a player makes on the ice.


When we notice PATTERNS over time, these things slowly become a TRAIT that people will say that a player has.


Rather than using the word TRAITS, in the Hybrid Development System, we prefer to think of these as PREFERENCES.


These preferences are like SOFTWARE in our minds that control how you tend to make decisions on the ice.


Software is like the apps on your phone that you can change, move around, add, and delete.


For example, if a player tends to make a high-risk player, then he currently has more of a RISK PREFERENCE SOFTWARE installed (versus a Safety Preference Software).


That is why when we help a player make an IDENTITY SHIFT, we are deeply focused on how to shift this MENTAL SOFTWARE first, not his on-ice skills.


The reason for this is because the players we work with know that they have the skills, but are just not using them the way they want.


This is a SOFTWARE PROBLEM.


To change the way a player plays, we must change the MENTAL SOFTWARE that operates in his mind.


Change the software -> change the decisions -> Change the game


Now I know you want to know how to do this, but I do not want to make this letter too long.


In the Next Identity Letter, we will dig deep into this concept and really help you understand how to rewire your mental software to make the decisions you want to make.


This will completely change your game.


So make sure to subscribe to get it in your inbox when it drops!



See you at the NEXT LEVEL,

Corson

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Who is Corson Searles?

I am a former player & mental/performance advisor for AAA, junior, college, and pro hockey players. I am obsessed with dissecting atheletic performance potential, lifestyle design, and hockey development.

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